Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Anthropology
Diet is a factor that has been shown to mitigate the impacts of cardiometabolic disease (CMD) risk in adult populations while sustained levels of psychosocial stress has been shown to worsen the impacts of CMD. Inflammation is a possible pathway through which these lifestyle and behavioral factors impact CMD risk. This poses an alarming issue for populations that are predisposed to higher levels of sustained psychosocial stress – college students. This study seeks to define the most prominent factors interlinking diet, psychosocial stress, and inflammation as it pertains to CMD risk in college students. Data collection processes included the use of questionnaires, anthropometric measurements, and biomarkers of stress (cortisol) and inflammation (C-Reactive Protein). These methods were used to (1) examine the relationship between BMI, central adiposity, and CMD risk, (2) assess the effects of psychosocial stress on subsequent inflammation profiles, and (3) explore how dietary practices may underlie the quantitative data surrounding stress and CMD risk. Data were collected on 21 UNC Chapel Hill undergraduates. Findings suggest increased psychosocial stress can be regarded as a prominent factor in underlying CMD risk among college students as cortisol levels and CRP levels have positive linear relationship. In addition, a diet falling in line with the Western Diet can be associated with increased CMD risk based on inflammatory profiles generated from CRP levels and anthropometric data. These results support the combination of dietary and stress interventions for reducing inflammation and down-regulating the negative impacts of psychosocial stress on CMD risk in college students.